By Khaleel Jooste
Copyright Khaleel Jooste 2016
Shakespir Edition License Notes:
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I seek prot**ection from sat**an the out**cast and I begi**n in the na**me of
The Graci**ous, The Mercifu**l.
Allah – there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of [all] existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills. His Kursi extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great.
Surah Al– Baqarah (The Cow) 2:255
As Allah wills
Indeed, mankind is in loss,
Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience.
Surah Al-Asr (103: 1 – 3)
Reading makes a country great.
Verily the knowledge of the Hour is with Allah alone. It is He Who sends down rain and He Who knows what is in the wombs. Nor does anyone know what it is that he will earn on the morrow: nor does anyone know in what land he is to die. Verily with Allah is full knowledge and He is acquainted with all things.
Surah Luqman (31:34)
“The news is really biased. What about that Chinese dude and his dream.”
She throws her hands in the air as she says ‘his dream’.
“The one where the capital, New York and the other gets blown up? Los Angeles.”
He shakes his head as she nods hers.
“Yes. Why put a dream on the news anyway?”
Claire stares at Matthew confused.
He clenches his fist.
“I wish you would accept the truth, Claire.”
He takes a deep breath and tries to relax.
Getting excited with Claire has only proven to make her clam up more. All of this was really hard for her to accept. She moved to America from England, because she believed that it was the best country in the world.
The land of the free… home of the brave.
And now only to hear all of this.
“It’s not only biased, it is entirely scripted… all made to bring you to a desired outcome… their outcome. And of course it is always somehow aimed at makin’ Islam out to be the enemy.”
She looks at him, continues to listen.
“I know. It’s unthinkable. Humph. Heck, just remembered. The movie Unthinkable, exactly what we’re talkin’ about. Three nuclear bombs programmed to detonate in three major American cities… American Muslim responsible. They have already conditioned the American people to accept it.”
“Same as they did with 9/11. Two or three months before the actual kite attack, they had that movie with many scenes shot in the cockpit of the plane. It shows how the plane almost flies into the trade center. If that is not enough to convince you, then I don’t know what will.”
Claire stares past him.
She is reminded of Ben.
He used to tell her exactly the same thing. She doesn’t say much more. Just gets up and leaves the room.
‘… And among us are the righteous, and among us are others not so; we were of divided ways.
And we have become certain that we will never cause failure to Allah upon earth, nor can we escape Him by flight.
And when we heard the guidance, we believed in it. And whoever believes in his Lord will not fear deprivation or burden.
And among us are Muslims in submission to Allah, and among us are the unjust. And whoever has become Muslim – those have sought out the right course.
But as for the unjust, they will be, for Hell, firewood.’
Surah Al-Jinn (72:11 – 15)
The place is sealed.
They stare at him as he stops at the fence.
Peter-John enters the gate and walks down the long path that leads to the main entrance to the house.
They have the entire place sealed. We tried the back, the sides. Nothing.
He stares at Peter-John as he knocks on the door. A few seconds later, Maryam smilingly opens it and invites him in.
She is responsible.
Both were dressed in black. A darkish hue hung about them. Almost like faint black mist. Their skin seemed to glow.
Not sure how she knew to barrier us out like this, but she’ll let her guard down soon enough and we’ll hit hard. No need for you to hover about. We’ll deal with this.
The throne is ours.
He stares at them, but doesn’t engage in conversation.
He was dressed in his white pants and silver silk top.
His face had several lacerations down the left cheek into his neck.
With his left hand, he twists the top of the pin on his right wrist and a small piece of paper drifts from the top. He grasps it in his right hand and reads.
There shall be no compulsion in acceptance of the religion. The right path has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut (false deities and false leaders) and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.
Allah is the ally of those who believe. He brings them out from darkness into the light. And those who disbelieve – their allies are Taghut. They take them out of the light into darkness. Those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein.
Surah Al-Baqarah (2:256 – 257)
He stares at them and without saying a word, he floats through the gate and continues to make his way down the pathway.
They both stare at him in disbelief.
You have forsaken your oath!
He ignores them and continues up the stairs.
A bright white figure was standing at the door. As he approaches, the bright white figure says,
The peace of the Lord be upon you. Enter with peace.
The bright white figure opens the seal and lets him pass into the house.
He floats through the closed door, then all along the hallway and enters the room as Peter-John and Maryam were about to take their seats.
Three more bright figures were present in the room; one next to Maryam, the other next to Peter-John, the third was standing by the elderly lady sitting on the chair to the side.
Peace be upon you, says all three as he stops and hovers near the sliding door that leads to the terrace.
“Thanks again for seeing me,” says Peter-John as he takes a seat.
“Anything for Jeanne and any friend of Jeanne’s, is a friend of mine.”
Peter-John smiles, clears his throat and starts.
“I’m sure you know why I am here.”
She looks at him with a nod of her head.
“I have a clue.”
The tan skinned figure with his dark blonde hair makes his way to the open doors and floats onto the terrace. More of the dark figures were at the fence. They had the whole place surrounded.
All of them stare at him mockingly.
He turns and faces Peter-John.
“Mmmmmm um um um. What’s this? Even more mouth-watering than the other.”
“I’m glad you like them. I baked those. Baking and painting is what I do to…” She wonders off; stares past Peter-John out of the window at the fence.
Her eyes go red.
“It’s what I do.” She sighs and sits back.
The tan skinned figure floats back into the house and stares at the Arabic script on a piece of papyrus located at the wall directly above the door. He understands it well. It was the Verse of the Throne.
He examines all the windows in the airy room. The same small piece of papyrus was above the window frames as well. He floats through the walls and observes that it is at each door and each window frame in every room of the house. Both the back and front doors as well.
Satisfied, he returns to the room where Maryam them were chatting cheerfully.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” Peter-John smiles widely. “Since… can’t quite explain.” He frowns slightly as he tries to think. Suddenly the smile plays across his face again. He removes his specs and gives them a wipe with his shirt and puts them back on.
With a slight laugh, he starts.
“Since I walked in here, I’m feeling… light… somehow unburdened.”
He scratches his head embarrassed.
“You must think I’m ridiculous.” He coughs.
“Not at all, I know exactly what you mean.” She winks and takes three short sips of water.
“I’ll let you in on a secret, if you want.”
She gets up and walks towards the terrace.
Peter-John gets up, grabs another of the pastries and is short on her heels.
The lady sitting by the wall clears her throat and gives Maryam a look.
Maryam acknowledges her admonition, pulls her scarf tighter and gestures for Peter-John to walk out first.
She gives the elderly lady an enquiring look and throws her hands into the air as if asking what?
She smiles and then joins Peter-John.
The tan skinned figure slips out the door as well and hovers at the end of the terrace.
She points to the trees.
“That one there is a Pepper tree. We have one on each side of the house. It keeps away the flies.”
“Those look like oranges. Are those orange trees?” Peter-John points to their immediate left.
“Yes. The oranges are quite sweet. What I want to show you though, are those.”
She points to the trees to their right.
The figure hesitantly floats from the end of the terrace closer to the tree Maryam was pointing at. Unsure of what to expect, he clutches the piece of paper in his hand and reads.
The Messenger has believed in what was revealed to him from his Lord, and so have the believers. All of them have believed in Allah and His angels and His books and His messengers, saying, “We make no distinction between any of His messengers.” And they say, “We hear and we obey. We seek Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the final destination.”
Surah Al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2: 285
He floats closer to the tree; he doesn’t breathe. He floats closer still, and, hesitantly, but confidently, he grasps the lemon in his hand. Still he doesn’t breathe.
“Lemon trees?” Peter-John.
“Yes. Probably the most useful trees we have here… for me that is. She stares past the fence. Her eyes go more red. She sighs again.
“Please, let’s go back inside.”
He stares at them as they go back into the house.
Finally he puts the lemon to his nose and takes a deep breathe in.
What looks like a smile, plays across his entire face. He lets go of the lemon and floats across the lawn and hovers near the fence.
The dark figures staring at the house all gather closer to the fence and all start cursing him.
Our Queen will deal with you.
He doesn’t respond, merely keeps staring at them.
Then she’ll have X finish you.
He stares at his right wrist. The pin moves from right to left and with an audible click slides in a circular motion and opens up and what appears as dust, floats into the air.
The dust seems to hover above his right hand. They form a definite pattern that resembles the Arabic alif-laam-miim.
He stares at it, then at the growing crowd of dark figures that surrounded the house, with most of them opposite him.
He makes eye contact with the one directly opposite him.
This was the last time that wretched witch gets to lay her trotters on me.
He gestures with his left hand to the deep scars on his cheek and neck.
The dust particles start glowing.
Tell your X I am waiting for him.
My loyalty is now with Him who revealed the light to mankind; His true chosen race.
He is Allah and only He is the Lord of the Throne.
X is delusional.
I am waiting.
A ball of fire ignites in his left hand.
The dust floats further into the air till it is right in front of his face. It glows ever brighter, the alif-laam-miin unmistakably discernible. He blows it and then propels it swiftly with the fire into their midst.
With agonizing screams, they all wrap in a cloud of dark matter and disappear.
The one that was standing right in front of him is hit with most of the dust and bright light fills his face. He seems to curse and tries to flee, but is frozen in place.
Slowly the tanned figure drifts closer to him.
Even for you, here, there is a place.
Free yourself from this disgrace.
Go with Peace.
Allah is Grace.
He lifts his right hand towards the dark figure’s face.
The dust retracts back into the pin. It rotates from left to right and closes with a soft audible click.
The dark figure touches his face.
What have you done to me?
He looks at the tan figure with a vacant expression and gives him a curious look before disappearing into a cloud of black matter.
The tanned figure turns and scans the perimeter.
All of them were gone.
Satisfied, he floats back into the house.
“Are you okay?” Asks Peter-John concerned.
“Don’t mind me. I’ll be fine.”
She seems more cheerful and her eyes less red.
“Why do you say the lemon tree is the most useful… to you? Is that the secret or does it have to do with the secret?”
Her eyes seem to light up too.
“We have one at every entrance to the house; two at the back door. If I had my way with my dad, I would have one by each window.”
She smirks and looks at the lady giving her a disapproving nod of the head.
She ignores her and continues.
“The trees are the reason for your good mood.”
The dark figure keeps a close eye on them both and continues to listen.
“Yea, – if ye remain firm, and act aright, even if the enemy should rush here on you in hot haste, your Lord would help you with five thousand angels Making a terrific onslaught.
Surah ‘Āli `Imrān (Family of Imran) 3:125
City of Angels
“Pretty, aren’t they?”
They continue further ahead.
“You glad we came?”
They move to the edge of the pinkish fluffy thing they were standing on.
“Ready?” She winks at him encouragingly.
“Highly still, but surely, yes.”
They take each other’s hand and jump to the next ball of pink fluff in the sky.
Bouncily they land on it and catch their breath.
“Look!” The little girl shouts excitedly.
“Wordy, what are they?”
“I have never seen things like that. So pretty.”
He smiles shyly.
“Rightly you are. Positively pretty indeedy.”
The giant beings were gathered in circular formation all around where the pink fluffy balls seemed to end.
“How many are they do you think?”
“Can’t say surely, but thousands, definitely.”
They float past the ones to their right.
The things they were staring at seemed to be on guard; facing the empty sky, with their backs to the girl and boy.
The girl and boy stand towards the edge of the bouncy pink fluff.
“Let’s go. I am ready.”
“How many fish have you got in there?” Asks Emily as she joins Griffin at the cylindrical fish tank that stood in the dark corner of the living room.
They had just wrapped up another Truthers meeting and the room was buzzing with their usual excitement.
Griffin drops a few flakes of dried fish food into the tank and stares at the floor.
Shyly he starts.
“If they’re all still in there, they should be about twenty-four.” He clears his throat.
Emily moves slightly closer to him.
“If they’re all still in there? What do you mean?”
She starts twisting her layered brunette hair into a single braid. It was tied at the back and draped across her left shoulder. Nervously, Griffin makes eye contact and smiles too. Her dark, greenish-blue eyes reminded him of two beautiful teal limpet sea shells; the dark rim of sandy brown adding to their heavy-lidded allure.
Unsure of what to do with his hands, he shares more.
“Well, I lost a few swordtails earlier this week. They keep jumpin’ outta the tank. I remove the lid ever so often just to let the tank breath.”
He quickly stares back at the floor; shoulders slumped in, trying his best to hide the fact that he was more anxious than before.
“Which ones are the swordtails?” Emily seems interested.
Griffin smiles and eagerly moves closer towards her and gestures for her to move a bit.
“Can you see those two with the sharp tails underneath the branch of the bonsai tree? They are the last two remainin’.” He gestures to the dark fish under one of the branches of the small tree situated right next to the round cylinder in the center of the tank.
“Are they blue or purple?” Emily asks confused.
Griffin takes in the wrinkles on her small nose and smiles to himself.
“Both I guess. Depends on which angle you’re lookin’ at them.”
He smiles more as Emily seems more confused. Soft wrinkles form at the corner of her eyes; her skin pale. She wore no make-up.
“If they are in the light, you will be able to see better. Don’t know why they’re hidin’ now. George is usually so curious; it’s unlike him to hide like that. He is shy though, must be everyone that’s here.”
“George? Shy?” Emily laughs softly. She seems to find all of this very odd, but fascinating.
“Yes, they are quite shy around strangers. Only when I am alone do they swim about gracefully and come to greet me. All my fish recognize me. They’re all quite intelligent.”
“Really?” Emily didn’t believe a word of it.
“Yes, really, George and Bullet especially.”
Griffin makes eye contact, coughs and stares back at the tank.
“Why George?” Emily keeps braiding her hair as she stares at Griffin expectantly. He notices the dark indigo streaks in her hair. It gave her face a soft radiance. He wasn’t sure if it was merely the light from the tank or a tint in her hair.
Griffin smiles shyly and looks her in the eye.
“He reminded me of this teddy bear I had when I was younger. Dad got it for me. This was after mom-them left for Stratford.” He seems almost sad as he reminisces.
“I never read the books, but George was always curious. Even the stuffed animal seemed to stare at you curiously. It was the eyes I guess.” Griffin nods his head in agreement with what he just said.
Emily listens intently.
“When they moved, I was sad that I couldn’t go with, but it was for the best. I was studyin’. My brother, JD, just finished primary school and left with mom. We were very close. I named a few fish after his teddy bears too. I miss him terribly.”
Emily lets go of her hair and walks more around the tank. She was wearing a chic, ankle length peasant dress with three quarter sleeves. The off-white cotton dress had sky blue embroidery along the hem which resembled deep water waves elegantly flowing in the air with every graceful step she takes.
“Is that why you have those in the center cylinder? Are they pictures of Stratford?”
“Yeah,” Griffin smiles.
He gives a soft laugh.
“That’s the Avon theatre and the Stratford Youth Centre to its right. JD was always a dreamer. Still is. He has been buskin’ on the steps and takin’ part in contests, hopin’ to hit it big.”
Griffin shakes his head.
“I am more realistic. Told him to focus on gettin’ into college and get a degree, find a stable job with security, benefits and stuff like that, but he didn’t entertain those conversations. Don’t see him behind a desk or doing hard manual labor either. He has always been a free spirit, just like mom.”
Emily doesn’t say much, just continues to listen.
The guys were still chatting lively. Florian was serving them all cool beverages and snacks.
“Those rocks and worms beneath it are actually meatballs and spaghetti, not real of course. Made them from clay and sealed them with non-toxic sealer. I put them right in front of the pic of King’s Buffet. Wheneva I visit Canada, JD and I always go there. We’re both bonkers for meatballs and spaghetti. Dude made such a mess on his first date there. He got meatball and sauce all over himself.”
Griffin laughs contently.
“I really thought it was rocks and worms. Really cool. It blends well in the tank. Just like the tree in front of the school.”
“Yeah, that’s Stratford Northwestern Secondary School. One of the last JD attended. Put the tree in front of it, as a metaphor for knowledge.”
“I miss him.”
Emily eyes him curiously.
“Is the tree real?” She tries to sound cheerful, noticing Griffin’s sudden sad look.
Griffin stares at the tree.
“No,” he smiles, “it’s fake. The purple and green long grass, the papaya and salvia, includin’ the moss between the white sand, on the tree branches, are all fake. I did have live plants before, but that caused serious problems.”
Griffin seems to cheer up.
“How so?” Emily asks.
Griffin clears his throat.
“When the plants lose their leaves, they decompose and the nitrogen levels in the pool increase. The fish all died. Only ones to survive were George and Willis. That was before I got Bullet.”
“Who’s Willis?” Emily seems to want to laugh.
Griffin coughs and seems to want to laugh too.
They move around the tank and Griffin points to the small fish swimming between the papaya leaves.
“That one there with the bright red bottom, that’s Willis. I named him after another one of JD’s teddy bears. He liked dressin’ him up in onesies. I remember this bright red onesie he had with this blue stripe. It seemed appropriate to call the fish Willis.”
Emily and Griffin both laugh. He continues.
“Willis is a Cardinal Tetra, male obviously and the rest are Neon Tetras, all female.”
“How do you tell the difference?” Emily seems confused.
“Well in terms of male and female, the difference is noted in that small anal fin.”
He points to the small fin to the bottom back of the small school of fish.
“The male’s fin is pointed, while the female’s is fan-shaped. The male fin is referred to as a gonopodium. That means…”
“Like a matin’ organ? To like hook or somethin’?” Emily asks embarrassed.
“Correct,” says Griffin pleased. He continues.
“The Cardinal is distinguished from the Neon in that the bright red is only half of the bottom, while the Cardinal has the bright red the entire way through. Both have the strikin’ blue of course. Willis’ is much more prominent though.”
“I would rather say it is green, but I can’t be sure.” Emily stoops in front of the tank. “Now it seems more sapphire or indigo blue.” She sounded confused.
“It’s the hue caused by the iridescent blue.”
“That sounds eery decent,” Emily laughs.
Griffin smiles shyly and stares at the floor.
“Come on, stop bein’ shy and tell me how decent the colors are,’ Emily jokes.
Griffin eyes her curiously, smiles and continues.
“It’s merely light being refracted in crystals in the skin cells.”
Emily seems to understand.
“If you look at the fish from the top, it will appear green and from below, the dark blue you observe. It’s the same with George and his mate.”
“Oh descend, like descending downwards. I get it.”
She moves more around the tank. As she passes the wall air stone bubble filter bar, she pauses and stares at the small blue bubbles that drift slowly to the top of the tank.
“Really beautiful. Those lights look like blue pearls inside those pretty shells. Was that your intent?”
She stares at Griffin on the opposite side of the tank.
Amused by her blurred appearance he says.
“Kinda. I wanted the tank to be like an island submerged in the ocean, hence the tree and rocks; the shells along the side wall covered by glass to add to the coral effect.”
Emily gracefully moves closer to where he stood.
“Why did you cover it with glass?” Emily seems curious.
“Too save time and energy when cleanin’ the tank. You have no idea what a mission it is to get rid of the green gunky stuff that grows on literally all the decorations in the tank, 909 as crap. This way it is easier.”
“How so?” Emily encourages.
“Well, the moss floor is literally a green carpet that I can just lift out. The sea sand isn’t real either, just really good art work. The plants and tree all have sucker cups at the bottom, so these remove easily enough. The shells and coral are not in the water, but the glass gives the effect that it is covered in water. The soft blue lights add to this effect.”
She nods in agreement.
She stares at the white fish swimming by itself in the portion of the tank with the rock structure and pinkish blue stones on top of it.”
She eyes Griffin curiously.
“What’s with this fishy business,” Florian asks before she could ask.
Griffin and Emily are both startled.
Florian notices their sudden awkwardness.
“No need to be so shell shocked. I’m just here to offer you somethin’ to eat. What will it be? Everythin’ meatballs today.”
“So thoughtful,” says Emily as she reaches for a sandwich.
“Sweet choice,” says Forian pleased. “Let me know what you think. It’s buffalo lentil meatballs and spinach with a tangy sauce. I added some dried chillies just for some kick.”
Emily bites into the sandwich.
“Anythin’ for you, Griff? Come on, I know you’re hungry. What about the sundried tomato and basil balls? Mostly chick peas, covered with vegan parm, you’ll love it.”
Griffin shakes his head.
“Can’t eat that, Flo. Sure it’s tight, but it will give me cramps and confine me to the loo. Tomatoes and I don’t go well together. It took me years to discover that I’m intolerant. What are these?”
Florian nods in understanding.
“Shrimp balls, only herbs. Try it with the lemon pesto.”
Griffin takes one and dips it into the sauce. He puts it whole into his mouth.
“Scrumptious.” He takes another.
“Try the sandwich. It’s delectable. I taste fennel, parsley and another herb tantalizin’ my taste buds.”
“It’s fresh thyme,” says Forian, “your palate is quite good.”
“Dank spread, dude; really lovely. You’re really considerate of Madison. Sure she appreciates it.”
She takes another girly bite of her sandwich.
“Gotta take care of my bro PJ’s girl.”
Emily stares in Madison’s direction. She was chatting with Embeth. Peter-John was pacing around nervously as usual. They had just received an email and this seemed to put Peter-John on edge.
“Told them they shouldn’t use my laptop, it’s compromised. They’re probably listenin’ to everythin’ we’re sayin’, 909 as hell.” He shakes his head.
Emily notices that he tenses up.
“Let me try one of those parmesan thingies. Vegan parm you say? How is that possible?”
Emily tries to calm Forian down.
“Cashews, yeast, garlic powder and salt, really simple.” Florian relaxes.
“Delicious. I’ll have to go on a juice cleanse after this, you’re not bein’ fair, Flo.” She hits him with a girly fist and puffs her cheeks.
“Grab a drink.” He gestures to the drinks to the side.
“Hey, aguas frescas, muchos gracias senor,” says Emily as she takes one.
“Watermelon special for you from paraiso, hermosa senorita,” says Florian as Griffin reaches for a drink too.
“Cool bracelet, bro.”
“Thanks, Florian, they’re cock-shells.”
“Are they real?” Asks Emily admiringly. “I’ve never seen such lavender nor turquoise shells before.”
“Definitely,” says Griffin as he takes a sip of his drink, “I collected them myself.”
“If you say so, Fishman,” Emily teases.
Griffin, eyes her shyly, but focusses on Florian.
“This aguas is dank, bro.”
“Sweet,” says Florian as they fist bump.
“I’ll leave you to your fishy business. Gotta find out what this commotion is about.” He winks and makes his way to where the rest were getting louder.
Emily wipes her mouth with a napkin and faces Griffin.
“He’s really sweet.”
Griffin nods in agreement.
He is suddenly nervous again.
“What kind of fish is that beautiful white one there by the funnel shaped sandstone with purple and pink pebbles on top?” Emily points to the eggshell white and caramel colored sedimentary rock formations to their right.
“Those rocks are another inside joke, actually.” He gives her a wink.
“Only JD and I know those are actually sugar cones,” he smiles to himself.
Emily looks at him confused. She examines the formations more.
“Yeah, those purple and pink pebbles, are supposed to be ice-cream, candy floss flavor; our favorite.”
He points to the formation that seems to have a hole in the side. That’s a gum ball on the inside. We usually force the dude at Scoopers to put them in for us before scoopin’ in the ice-cream.”
“Other’s might peer in on this tank, but only JD and I know the secrets it holds. It’s ours. They can’t take that away from us.”
Emily looks at him thoughtfully. She was sure he meant something specific with this they. They seemed to be the same they Florian mentioned earlier.
“That fish is really beautiful. What is it?” Emily gently touches Griffin’s shoulder with her left hand. She gives it a light caress and with her right hand points to the white fish.
Griffin smiles and seems at ease as he starts.
“That’s another Betta splenden. I like to refer to them by their other name though, Siamese fighting fish. Bullet is a fighter and the name suits him.”
Emily takes in his dark eyes. The light from the tank lightens them and they appear more chestnut brown. It stirs in her memories of cozy nights by the fireplace, warm cocoa with roasted marshmallows, lovely strawberries and chocolate fondue. She swallows softly and tries not to stare. Griffin easily shrinks into his shell and she didn’t want that. This was the first time he had been so open, without her having to pry it from him. Listening to his soft melodic voice, made her feel nice, comforted somehow.
Griffin looks at her and winks.
“I put her in there with the hopes that she and Bullet would become mates. It’s been a tough courtin’ though.” He laughs. “Notice the nicks in her tail? The tip right there by the fold? Bullet has been aggressive to say the least.”
Emily seems intrigued. She tries her best to focus on the fish. She realizes that her hand was still on Griffin’s shoulder. She removes it slowly and grips it with her right hand. She mutters something under her breath.
“Who should get a grip?” Asks Griffin intrigued.
Emily bites her lip, her eyes flutter.
Griffin notices. He smiles shyly.
“Why has he been bitin’ her? That’s so cruel.” Emily tries to avert his attention back to the fish.
Griffin notices that her white cheeks go pink.
“Many reasons. They’re generally very territorial, so any fish enterin’ their domain is perceived as a threat. She has a full moon tail, so she looks really big when she flares and Bullet is fast to react to that. His tale is more crown layered folds though. I’ll show you somethin’ really cool.”
He moves past her to the antique, mahogany bookshelf that stood against the far wall of the room. Emily stares at him as he walks. He dragged his feet. He was wearing trendy cowboy boots. She smiles to herself. His jeans were suspended with American patriotic elastic suspenders. He wore a plain white shirt. She tucks at her hair. She stares at her reflection in the small silver ball that hung above the tank. Satisfied she acts casually as Griffin returns with a pen.
“Ready for somethin’ wicked?” His thick brow curves and he winks encouragingly.
She is drawn in more and shudders.
“Ready?” He asks.
“Go ahead.” She focuses on the tank.
Griffin goes to his knees and starts tapping on the tank. The now very familiar torpedo like fish with the long flowing fin gracefully emerges from behind the salvia grass. It comes all the way to where Griffin was tapping.
“Ola, Amigo,” says Griffin softly. “How are you, big guy?” He seems to forget all about Emily.
She takes in Griffin’s face. It seems suddenly relaxed. His pupils go large. His jaw relaxes too.
She stares at the rich apricot and ripe plum colored fish with the beautifully layered tail. The body of the fish was barely two inches in length.
Griffin goes closer to the tank and puts his lips to the glass.
The fish comes closer and puts its upturned mouth to the glass too.
Emily smiles to herself and hunches closer, but tries not to distract Griffin or scare the fish away.
“What’s up Bullet? You okay, big guy?” Griffin admires the fish as it twists its body gracefully in circles in one spot.
Griffin looks at Emily and winks.
He takes the round, red end of the ballpoint pen and puts it to the side of the tank.
Almost immediately Bullet grows twice in size as it starts to flare its labyrinth tail and gills. Its color also intensifies; the orange almost a sunset red, the purple a more indigo darker hue. Its tail moves swiftly, almost as if it is being blown by some underwater wind.
Emily gasps and puts he hand to her mouth.
“That’s really beautiful. Wow, the tail is gorgeous. He’s really somethin’.”
“I taught him to do that. Took a few weeks, but Bullet is a fast learner.” Griffin gets up and moves the pen around the side of the tank. Bullet follows it and continues to act all mucho.
Emily focuses on Griffin’s pleased face. She notices that his nose flares subtly every time Bullet responds to his movements.
Satisfied, Griffin puts the pen down and Bullet seems to relax too. It gracefully swims about in circles near the glass.
“I’ll show you somethin’ else. Way awesome.” He reaches for a packet and removes some of the contents.
“Blood worms. That and brine shrimp are some of Bullet’s favorite treats.”
Griffin taps on the side of the tank and goes more towards the surface. Bullet follows his every move.
Griffin holds a blood worm underneath the silver ball above the tank and surely, a second later, Bullet breaks through the surface and launches into the air, grasping the bloodworm from Griffin’s hand and it dives back into the water.
It enjoys the treat and goes back to the surface.
Griffin holds another bloodworm above the tank, but this time slightly higher though. Bullet descends deeper into the water and with fast speed swims back to the surface, it shoots through the air, its body perfectly torpedo like, it grabs the bloodworm, does a flip in the air and with a soft plop breaks back into the water.
Emily stares in wondrous awe.
“That’s why he’s called Bullet. He jumps through hoops too. When you visit again, I’ll show you.”
Griffin smiles warmly.
“He’s really lively. I grasp more and more why you like him,” says Emily as she circles the tank more.
“The little guy’s been workin’ overtime,” Griffin says, “especially with these new angelfish in the tank.”
Emily notices the school of angelfish circling a street sign that says Willow Street. She smiles and waits patiently, sure that Griffin would explain.
“That’s Nanna’s address. She is most definitely an angel, no pun intended.”
“Stratford?” Emily is grateful.
“Yeah. That’s where Mr Bear got lost and we spent hours lookin’ for him. We eventually found him in the sand bin all dirty and nasty.” He smirks happily. “JD wouldn’t sleep without him ever.”
Emily continues to listen. She was surprised at Griffin’s candor.
“That Leopold there, is Mr Bear.” Griffin points to the angelfish with the black stripes and orangey silver body. It wasn’t very big; perhaps three inches at the most.
“Tell me, why Mr Bear?” Emily just laughed.
Griffin smiles shyly, but shares.
“’Cause of the birthmark on its body, right there.” He points to the dorsal fin.
Emily stares at the fish in the midst of the other five silver ones. She spots the birthmark just as the school of angelfish disappears behind what looks like a small treasure chest; golden coins lay scattered at the bottom.
“I see what you mean. Those dark spots do look like a bear. Intriguin’.” Emily admires Griffin appreciatively. He seems to intrigue her more and more.
“Yeah. Mr Bear used to hassle Bullet, but not anymore. They rather swim around him and try not to agitate him. Bullet seems so have grown used to havin’ them hover about. That’s rare for a Betta. They usually fight to the death or simply die from the constant shock.”
Emily stares as Bullet continues to swim near the surface. Its tale mesmerized her. He was beautiful.
“Angelfish mate for life, did you know?” Griffin asks as he drops a few brine shrimp into the water. Bullet is quick to grab one. The others are quickly eaten by a school of platies that were chillin’ in the hold of the shipwreck that seemed to be stuck in the sand near the bonsai tree.
“No, I didn’t,” says Emily as she admires the platies. There were nine of them. One yellow red tuxedo, three salt and peppers and the rest red wag tales.
“Yeah, once they mate, they stay together forever. It’s almost like they made a vow before God. If one dies, the other remains true till its own death, forsakin’ all others, really beautiful and sad.” Griffin sighs.
“It is. Guess that’s how God made them. Another sign for us that hints at His Beauty.”
“Exactly.” Griffin nods in excited agreement.
“I think for Bullet and the moon tale it will be the same, unlike that yellow red tuxedo platies over there.” He points to the small fish circling the treasure chest. “He mates with whoeva, wheneva he can.” Griffin sighs embarrassed. “He is the only male in the tank.”
Emily listens intently.
“If there are only one or so females in the tank, they would die from the continued harassment. With more females, they stand a better chance to survive.
“Really fascinatin’, Griffin.” She eyes him appreciatively.
Griffin’s nose flares at the mention of his name; only subtly, but Emily notices.
Why do you call her moon tale? Why not give her a name too?”
She stares at Griffin expectantly.
“Never gave it much thought, I guess,” says Griffin.
He stares at the moon tale and adds.
“Why don’t you name her? Be my guest.” Griffin says excited.
Emily smiles shyly. Her nose wrinkles again. She takes in Griffin’s excited face. He seems serious.
She steps closer to the tank and seems to give it serious pondering.
After a short silence, she says.
“Give me time to think about it. It should be somethin’ special and unique. Just like Bullet.”
“That’s just brilliant.”
They both stare at the tank.
Bullet gracefully swims about.
“And He it is Who has subjected the sea to you, that you eat thereof fresh tender meat (i.e. fish), and that you bring forth out of it ornaments to wear. And you see the ships ploughing through it, that you may seek thus of His Bounty by transporting the goods from place to place and that you may be grateful.”
Surah An-Nahl (The Bee)16:14
“Those are wingy thingies, I tell you.”
They both stare at the things that seemed to be prostrating in the air.
Some had their faces right into the clouds, giving the appearance that they were on their knees and face flat on the cloud.
The others were merely bowing.
“Are they praying you think?” The little girl asks him enquiringly.
He admires her curious eyes.
“I can’t be sure, Pretty, maybe.”
They focus on the one that was standing to the front.
“Yes, wow, exactly.”
“How many do you think there are?”
She points at the giant wings on its back. They seemed to span the entire length of the pink balls of fluff in the air.
“A few hundred, surely.”
“Many wings for one creature. Do you think it can fly with them?”
“Why merely have wings if they can’t be of any use? Surely they must be able to fly highly, no?”
They both jump to the next ball of pink fluff.
Griffin clears his throat and gestures that Emily should come with him to the back that leads to the bunker outside.
“Did you see the latest email from Babalwa?” Asks Emily as they step into the backyard; green grass mostly, with a few young Redbuds. There was a tire-swing hanging from the single Live Oak in the center of the yard. If you didn’t know, you would never guess that there was a bunker hidden below.
“I did,” says Griffin, nervously.
He stares at Emily as she runs off to the tree. He admires her lengthy body as she jumps into the swing.
“So? Do you agree with what she says about how we have the human experimentation wrong? That people are not forced to take drugs, but take these drugs willingly?”
“Not sure, but it does make sense,” says Griffin as he starts to push Emily.
“She says MDMA was prevalent at the Above & Beyond music festival in Cape Town.”
Emily gestures that he should push her more, she relaxes into the swing.
Griffin does and says.
“Yeah, but what about that gas bomb that they let loose there? Everyone says it was someone playin’ a prank, but Babalwa’s not convinced.”
He pauses, gives it some thought and continues.
“If anythin’, it’s not people experimentin’ on people, but rather them, tryin’ to find the drug that will allow them complete control over us. And those that meddle with these drugs expose themselves to be ‘experimented on’.” Griffin says that matter of fact.
Emily gestures for him to stop pushing her and she slows the swing down. She stares at Griffin enquiringly and says.
“Complaints after this gas bomb or whatever was released is that a black substance was aligned all along the throat and nostrils, pain in the chest and no memory of the music festival at all. This could be due to the drugs, of course.”
“Embeth links it to that music video where they show that the dark matter, the drugs, in conjunction with music and frequencies are actually alterin’ us, on a DNA level. It sounds really far out there though. She says even witchcraft is involved. Magic.”
“I wouldn’t simply discard that theory,” says Peter-John as he joins them by the tree.
“Oh, why do you say that, Pete?” Asks Griffin.
He leans against the tree, while Emily sways on the swing.
Peter-John removes his glasses and cleans them.
He was wearing his usual white shirt with cargo pants. He was never without his hoodie.
“Om…” he hesitates, “let’s just say this friend of mine said that when he took drugs, he saw stuff. He warned me to stay away from the drugs too.”
Peter-John breathes deeply as he nearly exposed his friend. Omar said that he should never mention this to anyone, but it was crucial that the Truthers get this information.
He remembers what Omar said about the day he went to the club with his date.
One… a grotesque looking one… was rubbing up against my date. She was dancing by herself, but it was there, behind her. Rubbing up against her. It was like he wanted her.
“Like what stuff did he see exactly?” Asks Emily.
Peter-John was unsure of what to say. He gives it some thought and remembers more.
There were more of them. All over the place. All of them surrounding the people. Doing stuff to them, but the people were unaware of their presence.
Peter-John clears his throat and starts.
“My friend Maryam says that they are called Jinn in the Quran. It is one of the three races God created. The Angels from light, Jinn from fire and Humans from clay.”
Unsure of himself, he starts pacing around.
“So why can’t we see them?” Asks Emily confused.
Griffin was curious.
“I’m not sure. Maryam says that it is all God testin’ our faith. Whether we believe in the seen and the unseen as He reveals to us in His books. Just like we should believe in Him without seein’ Him, so too should we believe in these things, without seein’ them too.”
He sighs and continues.
“I think the drugs not only let them control us, but in some cases if not all, you start seein’ the hidden things. What people call hallucinations, are actually these beings.” He sounded firm, but still unsure of himself.
Griffin gets up and starts pacing.
He turns and says.
“So, if I understand you, the reason he probably saw them was because of the drugs. The drugs removed the veil that hides them from us? I am willin’ to believe that. I have always said that it is not humans. They are not humans. These atrocities are not from man.”
Peter-John clears his throat and says.
“No, Griffin. It is the humans. These things do not have power to interfere in our realm. They can only prompt, whisper things to us. In some cases where they possess someone, then yes, they can control us, but that is only because we were meddlin’ with evil in the first place. Maryam is adamant that we should not blame these beings for the cruel things in the world. We humans are responsible. Satan and his Jinn followers, suggest to us to do these things only. That is the extent of his power over us.”
He paces and turns.
“Take the person who released the gas bomb in the crowd. He might have played a prank. But it was suggested to him to do so. An innocent joke, but the whisperer got him to do it. The experiment could then be done.”
Peter-John pulls his hoodie more over his head.
Emily skeptically adds.
“So are you sayin’ that they use the Ultra Music Festivals and such as the labs to carry out experiments? And the people attendin’ and doin’ drugs, make themselves willin’ guinea pigs?” She wasn’t convinced.
Peter-John paces about.
“I really don’t know. I’m still unsure myself, but Maryam has got a point and it is almost just as my friend said.”
“If you mess with evil, evil will follow you.”
The rest of the group joins them and they all head into the bunker below.
Allah does not charge a soul except with that within its capacity. It will have the consequence of what good it has gained, and it will bear the consequence of what evil it has earned. “Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred. Our Lord, and lay not upon us a burden like that which You laid upon those before us. Our Lord, and burden us not with that which we have no ability to bear. And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us. You are our protector, so give us victory over the disbelieving people.”
Surah Al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2:286
Claire reaches for her music box. Opens it up and removes the letters she tied up with a broad, purple ribbon. She undoes the bow. She takes the top letter.
Benedict Black 3rd
Black Prince Road
She removes the letter from the envelope.
Puts it to her nose.
That was always her favorite.
She puts the letter back to her nose and closes her eyes.
The white chocolate.
She unfolds it and starts to read.
It has only been a day since you left and already it seems as if it has been an eternity.
I miss your voice. More than anything, I miss your voice.
I know I agreed to you leaving for London, but that does not mean that my heart does not want you here with me, holding me.
I miss you, Big Bear.
Mr Biggs has been mopey and does not want to eat. He barely drinks any water.
I will take care of him, do not worry.
I am sure he misses you too.
Please be safe and hurry back.
I think I am ready.
I hope you are too.
She closes the letter.
Puts it back in the envelope and opens another.
Again she takes the letter and smells it first.
Breathes in the wood and amber, still as if she had written the letter just yesterday.
She unfolds it and reads.
The days go by and not one without you in all of my thoughts.
I am scared. Scared I might forget. Forget you.
Maybe you will think I do not… care… anymore.
I know that is irrational, but I guess I am just insecure.
I promised I would not do this, but my head says one thing and my heart another.
The hurt I feel is not that of loss, but of longing.
To feel safe in your arms.
To look into your eyes.
I have never told you, but I love looking at your eyes, especially when you are not looking.
To look into them is to drown in the happiness of your vast ocean of love and warmth.
Ben, I have never felt so safe.
Thank you for giving me that.
I think I am over… that… now.
I am ready.
PS. Mr Biggs has started eating. Not a lot, but enough.
She puts the letter to her heart.
Breathes in the scent one last time.
Puts it back into the envelope.
She wants to take the next letter.
Decides to open the one at the bottom.
She smells it.
More of the wood and amber.
This one more vanilla.
That juicy fruit.
She was convinced it was pomegranate.
She unfolds it and before reading.
She closes her eyes and breathes in deep.
Ben, my love
Another day without you and I might go mad.
I miss you dearly.
The house is colder than usual, the furnace is working, fire in the fireplace, but still, the place feels cold. It is your warmth, it is missing.
In my head, I hear you clearly.
But that is not the same.
I really do miss that.
At night I hold my pillow tight.
Hold on tight imagining it was you.
I wish I never agreed to let you leave.
I should have forced you to stay.
Was it all worth it?
I do not think so.
I would rather have you here with me.
Mr Biggs has not left the house for months. All he does is lay by the window. He misses you, I can see.
Ben, I swore I would not do this, but I cannot take it anymore.
Please, come home.
Come home to us.
Come home to me.
I miss you.
I am ready.
She closes the letter.
Puts it the envelope.
Tears stream down her face.
She gets up.
Goes to the sink.
Puts a flame to the letters one by one.
Dagger eyes as the letters burn.
Never again, Mr Big Ben!”
ما لا نهاية
Claire shakes her head as Matthew leaves the library and disappears into the crowd outside.
The conversation reminded her of the things she and Ben spoke about. That was often. She didn’t want to believe him, but here was Matthew saying exactly the same things.
She remembers something very specific he said to her right before he left for his undercover mission in London.
The Demolition man said that the Man who would be King would take them to the Stargate that would lead them to the hall of fame…
She remembers more.
The Road to El Dorado is where we should begin…
She shakes her head.
It just can’t be.
The government will never hurt its own people.
The words Matthew spoke just before he left echoes through her head as well.
Look when the president apologized for experimenting on Americans.
Didn’t even apologize for the real stuff they were doing and are still doing.
Why do you feel this… I don’t know… patriotism for this place… you’re British…
You’ll go down with the country if they manage to blow up that nuke next time.
Why do you think the president went to go hide in his bunker. Why all those top officials fired?
She closes the book on the table and gets up.
“I refuse to live in fear. God is in control of everything. As long as we believe in Him, no harm will come to us.”
She exits the library and heads home.
“That is only Satan who frightens you of his supporters. So fear them not, but fear Me, if you are indeed believers.”
Surah Al’Imran (The Family of Imran) 3:175
“Seek God (Allah)’s help with patient perseverance and prayer. It is indeed hard except for those who are humble.”
Al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2:45
I wish to thank the following people, without whom this story would not be the same. May the Lord bless you abundantly. More of the story to follow soon, insha’Allah. Thank you for reading.
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Bismillah Los Angeles City of Angels â€œPretty, arenâ€™t they?â€ â€œPositively.â€ They continue further ahead. â€œYou glad we came?â€ He nods. â€œHonestly. Yes.â€ They move to the edge of the pinkish fluffy thing they were standing on. â€œReady?â€ She winks at him encouragingly. â€œHighly still, but surely, yes.â€ They take each otherâ€™s hand and jump to the next ball of pink fluff in the sky. Bouncily they land on it and catch their breath. â€œLook!â€ The little girl shouts excitedly. â€œWordy, what are they?â€ â€œI have never seen things like that. So pretty.â€ He smiles shyly. â€œRightly you are. Positively pretty indeedy.â€ Insha'Allah